Updated: Apr 16, 2021
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Just to be clear for the record: searching for information about a candidate online during the interview screening process is not appropriate and can have Human Rights Code implications. Applicants are entitled to an equal opportunity to present themselves and their qualifications to prospective employers.
And yet…it happens a lot. Many lawyers tasked with screening applications don't have a background in Employment or Human Rights Law and are not aware that conducting “due diligence” online is not fair to the candidates. For many of those lawyers, LinkedIn is their go-to resource to find out more about a candidate’s professional background.
So, in principle, whether or not you have a LinkedIn account should not have any impact on your prospects for securing a legal position. In reality, it makes sense to mitigate the risk by having a professional LinkedIn profile posted for viewing by well-meaning-but-overly-curious lawyers.
If you do choose to have a LinkedIn profile, try to avoid the following 3 mistakes that law students sometimes make:
1) Assuming Nobody Will See It
Many law students get a LinkedIn account because their career services advisor or mentor told them that they should. They write the bare minimum on their profile, throw up a decent photo and call it a day. In order to capitalize on the benefits of having a LinkedIn account, it’s important to take the time to complete all of the sections of your profile, including uploading a professional-looking photo. The content for each section should be viewed through the eyes of a lawyer trying to decide who should get the last interview spot: you or another student with a kick-ass LinkedIn profile.
2) Missing A Promotional Opportunity
Don’t approach your LinkedIn profile as just one more thing you have to do to get a job. Rather, think of it as an opportunity to promote yourself beyond your 2-page resume. This is the whole reason the lawyers are going off-book: they want to know more about you. There is no limit to how much content you can include in your profile, so take the time to think beyond your resume. Curious people prefer to have access to as much relevant and diverse information as possible.
3) Forgetting about it
Law students already have a lot of social media to manage, so it’s tough for LinkedIn to compete with Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and TikTok. As such, it’s far too easy for law students to forget about their LinkedIn account once the recruitment process is over. But LinkedIn is all about playing the long game. It takes years and years to build a network that will pay dividends down the road. Many lawyers only realize this mistake when they decide to make a career change and they only have 75 LinkedIn connections. 97% of staffing professionals use LinkedIn as a recruiting tool, so the more connections you have, the more likely it is that you will come up in searches when it counts. Try to make it a part of your weekly routine to add at least 20 meaningful connections. A good place to start is by connecting with your connections’ connections ( “2nd degree”). If you are consistent in making connection requests, the LinkedIn algorithm will learn the type of connections you want and will provide you with suggestions so you just have to click to invite them to connect. Try to get to the “500+ connections” level to build professional credibility (profiles don’t publicly reveal numbers higher than that). Just keep this in mind: nobody ever complains at the end of their career that they wasted their time building their network.
At the end of the day, it’s your choice to join the 660 million LinkedIn users in more than 200 countries around the world. But if you’re going to do it, do it right.
For more advice on law student recruitment, contact Kristy Foreman at firstname.lastname@example.org, or check out these ForeReach Consulting blog posts: